Yesterday, I posted about the fruit of the Spirit. What happens when I surrender to God’s presence in my life? Characteristics of the Lord Jesus will become evident in me, expressed in my life toward others, toward myself and affecting how I relate to food, eating and my body.

What is the converse of this? It is legalism. It is outward constraints that attempt to cause certain behavior. It is change from withOUT, rather than change from withIN. It is conforming to outward constraints, rather than embracing a heart change that ultimately can be seen outwardly.

Legalism can have a very subtle influence in our lives. It can be in the slight tinge of “fear” we have about not exercising today, which is failing to realize that if we don’t get a chance to exercise, our bodies will probably just call for less food–eating 0 to 5 on any day will continue the process of bringing us to our natural God-given size. It can be seen in the sense of self-righteousness we feel when we make a choice to have grilled chicken instead of fried. Obviously there is nothing wrong with exercising or with grilled chicken, but do these things, in any way, define us? Or do they define how “good” we feel we have been? If so, that should be a red flare.

Can you think of any ways in the past that you have been duped into the legalism trap relative to food and eating? Feel free to share it with us here.

The HEAL book quotes one woman:

Rather than worrying about calories, carbohydrates, or fat grams, I ask myself if it’s something God is leading me to enjoy and if it’s what my body needs at that moment. I’m now living with freedom that equips me to make wise food choices. Smith and Halliday, HEAL, page 95

This is what we are after…freedom. This is not freedom NOT to care, but freedom TO care with godly discernment and wisdom. We look only to Christ for our righteousness. If no option for grilled chicken is available when we visit a friend’s home, we take an appropriate portion of home-made fried chicken and allow ourselves to be grateful to God for tastes, textures, and wonderful friends. We don’t run home in fear and exercise harder or bypass hunger the next morning to make up for it!

Are there any ways in which you currently see legalism seeping into your life? What can you do to change this?

There are no forbidden foods as we continue on this journey. We may say this, but so very often we betray that we don’t really believe this by trying to “atone” for having something that, in our diet days, we didn’t allow ourselves. Or by allowing ourselves to have a certain “diet food” freely because we tend to view it as “ok, because it is ‘healthy.'” These thoughts betray that we are still caught up in legalism.

In HEAL, if you think back to lesson 2, healthy eating is eating when hungry and stopping when not. It is going to God for all the other reasons we tend to be drawn to food. Healthy eating has more to do with why we eat than the what.

That said, there may be times when you sense in your spirit that something has an ungodly hold on you. Having that certain something in the house, you struggle repeatedly with overindulging. Truthfully, this can be anything. Remember, it isn’t the substance that determines our virtue. Bingeing on carrots is every bit as ungodly as bingeing on Dove chocolate. Only you and the Lord can determine if there is something that, for a season, as an expression of love (not to *win* God’s approval or to *prove* your righteousness!), you offer to Him. You can have the freedom not to have it in your home, but at the same time, realize that doing this doesn’t change the heart. The heart is changed by God. Removing the substance that you find trips you up is an offering to God, but invariably, he is likely to offer you another way to be sure to deal with the underlying heart issue.

Jesus laid down His life for us. Is there anything that He calls us to lay down for a season?

In my case, he definitely wanted me to lay down the bathroom scale. When it is in the house, I use it in a way that doesn’t honor him. I also can’t have Oreo cookies and vanilla ice cream in the house at the same time. I can have one or the other, but not both, as I will have an Oreo cookie milkshake with every hunger (and then some!)!!! So, I choose to lay that down. In the past, I have had seasons where I have laid down this or that…anything that the Lord says has begun to own me. Typically, he lets me know when I am free to have that whatever-it-is in my life again. Gosh, in the non-food realm, I have sensed the Lord lead me NOT to go into the Christian bookstore for a season before! LOL!

Obviously, my ultimate goal is to have a heart given over to the Lord so that I can be in a Christian bookstore and not overspend or to have Oreos and vanilla ice cream in the house and not overindulge!

Prayerfully ponder this question. What is the Lord saying to your heart about if there is something you need to give over to Him for a time? Will you? When? Do you have someone to whom you can be accountable about this?